Thursday, January 21, 2010

Live: Coyote Eyes, Frozen Warnings + No Place, Blast Off!

When: 1/14/09
Where: Death By Audio

First things first. At the Death By Audio show a week ago, the bookers had an interesting idea - have a band play short sets in the back room between bands on the main stage. It could have been pretty cool, I guess, except that they selected a group called Blast Off! to fill this role. Blast Off consisted of aimless "jamming" on instruments including saxophone. And by jamming, I mostly mean repeating the same several notes over and over again for twenty minutes with slight variations. The first break I heard them cover sounded marching band-inspired. Tellingly, that was the best part - awful but at least original. It just got worse as the night went on, repetitive, cliche, totally bland. I wish bands like this wouldn't play in the winter; you have to pick between listening to them and standing in the cold. Tough choice. [myspace]

Now, I've been excited to hear Frozen Warnings for a while, the new project of central Werewolves member Brian Amsterdam. All I knew about the band, other than that it involved Amsterdam, was that it was synth-based. My reaction to the set (of which I missed the first half) was a little mixed.

For one thing, the lyrics were...wanting: "Do you come here often?" repeated eighty times again isn't exactly interesting. Also, the synth sounds seemed a little unrefined - I couldn't understand if they were going for old-school or up-to-date, rough or polished. I imagine that's something that will get worked out over time. Obviously, this is a very new band.

And everything else about them suggests they have enormous potential. The songs are as good as any Werewolves fan would expect - enveloping, intense slow-pop songs with spacey melodies. The sounds, though still underdeveloped, are rich and noisy. Meanwhile, the canned rhythms became much less canned as they devolved into breaking polyrhythms, multiple tempos ignoring each other but somehow interlocked. Frozen Warnings have the talent. Let's see if they have the will and the luck to make it to the next level. [myspace]

Frozen Warnings were followed by a band called No Place, who did not fit with the line-up at all. While the rest of the bands, even the unforgivable Blast Off!, had true artistic ambitions, No Place were rockstar wannabes who sounded like a poor imitation of the Strokes. Now the Strokes are fine, but they didn't exactly tear down any barriers. And No Place is a long way from even that level of merit - usually, a little offkey imperfection adds character, but this was more than a little - it was grating. Meanwhile, the rest of the band kept stumbling. They seemed ill-prepared, moved very slowly from song to song and generally showed themselves to be as unprofessional as they were uninspired. [myspace]

But I had to stick around, in order to see Coyote Eyes, long one of my favorite emerging Brooklyn bands. And DAMN I'm glad I did. Although this band has consistently impressed me with their arty post punk, this show was hands-down the best I've ever seen from them. Last time I saw them, they started out slow and failed to grab their audience. This time, they started the set with their strongest and most familiar song, "Yellow Red," which starts with a demanding half-tempo riff. As the band came in with far more volume and force, the difference in the audience reaction was obvious. While at the Mercury Lounge show, with the gradual build up, the audience drifted over towards the stage for the first few minutes of the song, every conversation was wrapped up within 30 seconds of the opening note of "Yellow Red," the audience immediately turning their attention to the band on stage.

Unfortunately, due to some equipment problems, especially with the drums, some of this inertia was lost during a long break after the first song and subsequent pauses later in the set. The downtime wasn't as well handled as it should have been, but it wasn't terrible either - Coyote Eyes have an intraband banter more amusing than most.

In any case, despite some problems between songs, the songs themselves have taken yet another step forward. In another sign of the band's growing confidence, guitarist and sometimes-singer Manny Nomikos is finally coming into his own as a vocalist. Before, he neither used nor hid the idiosyncrasies of his voice, but this time around, he exploited them. Instead of being a typical indie rock guy who can't sing great but does anyway - which is alright, but a little overdone - he's developing a unique voice that turns any weakness into an asset.

On the other side, bassist and singer Marta DeLeon wasn't at the top of her game vocally. I don't know why - maybe she had a cold, maybe she couldn't hear herself, maybe it was just a tough night. She was a touch offkey, and I look forward to hearing the band when both singers are at their best, when her melodic voice and his oddball yelps and hollers are juxtaposed to maximum effect. Next time, I guess.

Meanwhile, the band's material is great. The songs I know are stronger than ever and the newer ones promise even more exciting directions. Drummer Jeremiah McVay, who has always struck me as exceptionally gifted, seemed to be pushing himself even harder, trying out new ideas and bulking up songs in the subtle ways only an experienced drummer can. Over his unshowy but lavish beats, Nomikos and DeLeon strangled and pounded their guitars into a tight mesh of sonic strangeness. Anyone who saw this show should have no doubt that Coyote Eyes is one of the most bold, original and talented bands in Brooklyn. Is it too soon to say "I told you so?" [myspace]

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